E-Waste By Country: Which Countries Generate the Most E-Waste Globally?
The insatiable demand for electronic equipment around the globe is creating the fastest-growing waste stream – the United Nations refers to it as a "tsunami of e-waste."
The world produces approximately 50 million tons of e-waste (electronic waste) annually, which surprisingly weighs more than all commercial airliners ever made! Unfortunately, only 20% of the e-waste is formally recycled. E-waste disposal is one of the most critical issues raising concerns globally because most of these products are toxic and do not biodegrade easily.
Creating awareness about global e-waste production and the impact of technology is crucial because it encourages people's participation in managing e-waste for a safer environment. Keep reading to learn more about e-waste production by country.
Downside of Technology
Today's world is increasingly being dominated by technology, with everyone looking forward to their next upgrade. Think about all the electronic devices you own; now, imagine each household in your town, state, or country owning the same number of devices. Have you ever thought about the effects on the environment when all those electronic devices become obsolete and are thrown away?
The domination of technology has increased the global demand for electronic devices, and so has the number of discarded electronic gadgets. According to The Global E-waste Monitor by the United Nations, the electronic waste generated globally in 2019 amounted to 53.6 million metric tons, a 21% increase in just five years.
The Global E-waste Monitor report also predicts that e-waste (discarded products with a plug or battery) will reach 74 metric tons by 2030 – approximately double the e-waste generated in just 16 years. These predictions call for something to be done about the growing e-waste problem.
Top Countries by Total Quantity
Out of the total e-waste generated globally, which countries are on top of the world's e-waste mountain by total quantity? Based on Statista's report on leading countries based on the 2019 global e-waste production, China was the largest producer of e-waste, generating over 10 million metric tons. China is closely followed by the United States, generating roughly seven million metric tons.
According to Statista's 2022 report, the top countries by the total quantity (in metric tons) of e-waste generated globally include:
- China - 10,129
- United States - 6,918
- India - 3,230
- Japan - 2,569
- Brazil - 2,143
- Russia - 1,631
- Indonesia - 1,618
- Germany - 1,607
- United Kingdom - 1,598
- France - 1,362
Even though China tops in e-waste production globally, when it comes to per capita basis, several regions are working on their environmental awareness. Global E-waste Monitor statistics of e-waste generation by total quantity indicate that Asia leads with 24.9 metric tons, closely followed by the Americas with 13.1 metric tons and then Europe with 12 metric tons.
However, several countries have their recycling records leading the way. For instance, out of 12 Mt of e-waste generated in Europe, about 5.1 Mt of the e-waste was documented to be collected and properly recycled – an equivalent of 42.5% of the e-waste generated.
On the other hand, out of the total 24.9 Mt generated in Asia, only 2.9 Mt is the e-waste documented to be collected and recycled correctly. That translates to about 11.7% of the total e-waste produced. The e-waste collection rate indicates the performance of the formal collection systems in different regions. These statistics clearly indicate that most countries need to improve the management and recycling of e-waste production.
Top Countries Per Capita
Globally, about 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste were generated in 2019. E-waste collected formally is measured in unit kg per capita. That represents the total e-waste collected as such by a formal collection system.
When it comes to waste generation per capita, Europe tops the list, closely followed by Oceania and the United States. However, the statistics can vary across different regions or countries because consumption and disposal behaviors depend on various factors such as policies, income levels, and the waste management system structure.
Even though China and America generate most of the world's total e-waste, Norway is the top country per capita. The top e-waste-generating countries per capita include:
- Norway – 62.4lbs per capita
- Switzerland – 58.0lbs per capita
- Iceland – 57.3lbs per capita
- Denmark – 52.9lbs per capita
- United Kingdom – 51.8lbs per capita
- Netherlands – 51.4lbs per capita
- Sweden – 49.2lbs per capita
- France – 48.9lbs per capita
- United States – 48.7lbs per capita
- Austria – 48.6lbs per capita
Importance of Recycling
Out of the total discarded e-waste, only about 20% undergoes recycling through organized and regulated channels. Most e-waste is taken to landfills or managed in various informal settings, a norm in many developing countries.
Even in the European Union, which is considered the leader in global e-waste recycling with a recycling rate of 42.5%, only 35% of the e-waste is appropriately managed and recycled. These statistics indicate that there's still considerable room for improvement.
Because recycling is an expensive process requiring safe and secure technology and conditions, many countries export e-waste to Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, Asian and African countries often lack proper e-waste management, and their rules are lax. That means that most of the e-waste toxins end up in the environment.
Many countries have a lot of work to address proper waste disposal practices. We can choose to recycle most of our electronic devices for the sake of our environment. Recycling e-waste is vital because it reduces the accumulation of toxic materials that could end up in the environment. Recycling e-waste also reduces water and air pollution associated with creating new equipment.
TrashCans Unlimited for Your Recycling E-Waste Management
So, what do you do about the rising e-waste generation? You can resist purchasing new gadgets regularly, and instead, try getting your old equipment repaired if possible or resell them. If repairing or reselling is impossible, the best solution to discard electronic waste is to recycle them responsibly.
Begin by finding recycling bins and trash cans and find a recycler who is responsible. Get in touch with TrashCans Unlimited and take part in ensuring environmental sustainability by managing your e-waste for recycling.